The Atlanta Falcons are somehow still unbeaten. The New Orleans Saints have only one win. Yet, this is a rivalry game, and in rivalry games, anything can happen.
The Falcons are just getting the breaks this season. They did not play very well at all against the Washington Redskins, but their opponent made just enough mistakes to keep them in contention, and a late touchdown in the fourth quarter rescued them from defeat. After Washington forced overtime with a last-second field goal, the Falcons’ defense came up big, snaring an interception in the extra period and returning it for a game-winning touchdown. The Falcons are doing all sorts of good things under first-year coach Dan Quinn, who seems to be fitting in well as an NFL head coach after his tour at Seattle as the defensive coordinator. As long as Atlanta can minimize mistakes in this game, it should be able to stay ahead of the Saints.
New Orleans is an awful team right now. There’s no way to sugar-coat it. The Philadelphia Eagles are an average team, but they blew out the Saints last weekend. New Orleans makes basic mistakes in defensive assignments, and the offense does not have the line play or the running game to help out Drew Brees. Everything has gone so spectacularly wrong for the Saints, two years after the team fought the Seattle Seahawks hard in the NFC playoffs. Everyone’s wondering if there’s any way this team can turn things around, but most people around the NFL are not convinced one bit.
Atlanta started as a three-point favorite. The NFL odds briefly moved up to 3.5 points, but it then went back down to three, where it is now. The fact that the Saints are at home at night is one thing. The fact that Atlanta didn’t play well against Washington also influences the betting public’s thought process. Most of all, the belief that Atlanta is due for a loss at some point is preventing this line from going up to four points for the Falcons.
The Falcons have tackle Lamar Holmes listed on the physically unable to perform list. Guard Jon Asamoh is on the injured reserve list. Wide receiver Devin Hester also on the injured reserve list. Linebacker Justin Durant is listed as questionable for this game with an elbow injury. Guard Mike Person is questionable with an ankle injury. Most worrisome of all for the Falcons, star wide receiver Julio Jones is questionable for this game with a hamstring injury.
For the Saints, safety Rafael Bush is on the injured reserve list. So is linebacker Davis Tull. Guard Jahri Evans is questionable with a knee injury. Wide receiver Marques Colston is expected to miss this game with a shoulder injury. Tackle Terron Armstead is questionable with a knee injury. Defensive lineman Bobby Richardson is questionable with a hip injury. Punter Thomas Morstead is questionable with a quad injury.
Handicapping The Game
The Saints are just a terrible team. Keep in mind that their one win came against Dallas, when the Cowboys had Brandon Weeden in at quarterback and were dealing with other injuries as well. Julio Jones being out would hurt Atlanta, but Roddy White can fill in that gap. The Falcons should be okay in this game. Take them with your NFL picks.
NFL Pick: Falcons -3 (-120) at Bovada